- By Arlene Winnick
- Photos Courtesy of Pantages / Julieta Cervantes
Here’s the show you’ve been waiting for. Hello, Dolly!, one of the most uplifting, beloved and entertaining Broadway musicals returns to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre this month starring the legendary Betty Buckley in the title role.
Set in New York in the 1890’s, Buckley plays Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strong-willed flamboyant matchmaker who’s trying to find the perfect mate for the cantankerous “well-known, unmarried half-a-millionaire,” Horace Vandergelder. Adding to that pursuit is lots of behind-the-scenes scheming, a young romance to encourage, and a personal agenda to pursue, and you’ll be rooting for a must-have happy ending. Mayhem, madness, merry-making ensue featuring over the top lavish productions, outlandish costumes, and memorable show-stopping songs like “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and of course the title song “Hello, Dolly!” which has become a much performed classic of the Broadway stage and beyond. Louis Armstrong’s recording of the song – originally done as a marketing demo to promote the show – was released by his record company and won a Song of the Year Grammy Award in 1965.
Based on Thorton Wilder’s 1938 farce, The Matchmaker (originally called The Merchant of Yonkers), Hello, Dolly! was first produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1964 with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart and directed by Gower Champion.
The original show which won ten Tony awards (a record held for 37 years) including Best Musical and ran for 2,844 performances, starred Carol Channing (both Mary Martin and Ethel Merman turned down the role) and quickly became her signature role of a lifetime. Channing donated her original red satin, sequin-bedecked costume, designed by Freddy Wittop, to the Smithsonian in Washington DC for their permanent collection. Over the years, the coveted Dolly role has been played by top show-business luminaries including Pearl Bailey, Ginger Rogers, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Bernadette Peters, and in the recent record—breaking Broadway revival, Bette Midler.
Hello, Dolly! was made into a popular Academy Award-winning film in 1969 starring Barbra Streisand as Dolly and Walter Mattheau as Vandergelder and introduced a very young Tommy Tune as Ambrose. Louis Armstrong made a cameo appearance as the bandleader.
This current Broadway production now on a national tour won four 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, and garnered rave reviews. NPR called it “the best show of the year” and The Los Angeles Times said it “distills the mood-elevating properties of the American musical at its giddy best.” Vogue called the new production “gorgeous” and The Washington Post declared the show is “making people crazy happy”. Rolling Stone hailed the show as “a must see event. A musical comedy dream. If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket, you’ll be seeing something historic. Wow. Wow, wow, indeed!”
Betty Buckley, called “The Voice of Broadway” by New York Magazine, has a long list of theatrical honors and awards. She has appeared on and off-Broadway many many times. Who can forget her Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Buckley received the Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats. Her remarkable rendition of “Memory” still haunts me. In 2012 she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and in 2017 she received the Julie Harris Award for Artistic Achievement given by The Actors Fund. She describes the character of Dolly as an “instrument of joy” and says it’s the most exhausting role of her career. She adds, “Hello, Dolly! is a gift…an ice cream shop of color, beauty and joy.”
Hello, Dolly! will be at the Pantages theatre from January 29th through February 17th. Don’t miss it!